It would easier to list the things that didn’t go wrong for Denny Hamlin in Saturday night’s Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway. Hamlin was slammed into while leading in the first Stage. He got lost two laps while pitting under green at lap 186. He took a wave around to get a lap back on lap 214, and he got the free pass to get his other lap back at the conclusion of Stage 2. Then Hamlin had to pit under caution at lap 380 for a loose wheel.
Once Hamlin overcame those obstacles, all he had to do was chase down an ultra motivated Matt DiBenedetto, who was chasing his first career win after being informed that he was jobless for 2020 earlier in the week.
It wasn’t easy, but Hamlin stalked DiBenedetto and waited for the perfect time to strike. Hamlin would indeed strike with eight laps to go, and he wouldn’t look back as he took his fourth win of the 2019 season.
Hamlin started from the pole and led 80 laps.
Hamlin’s win was great, but it was not the story of the night. That honor has to belong to DiBendetto, who had fans at Bristol making screaming after the race. They were all inspired by DiBenedetto’s stirring performance.
For DiBenedetto, it’s little consolation as the loss has to be crushing, and he showed the anguish of losing as he fought back tears in his post-race interview. Despite the disappointment of letting one slip through his fingers, DiBenedetto did lead a race-high 93 laps, and he had the best finish of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career.
Over the course of the final few laps he just couldn’t overcome having older tires and older Joe Gibbs Racing chassis than Hamlin. Also, contact from Ryan Newman as DiBendetto was lapping him didn’t help matters either.
Brad Keselowski finished third, Kyle Busch came home fourth after struggling for a big portion of the race and Chase Elliott ended the race in fifth.
Kyle Larson, who won Stage 1 finished in sixth and he was followed by Clint Bowyer, Daniel Suarez, Stage 2 winner Kurt Busch and Ryan Blaney who rounded out the top-10.
Post-Race Stat Pack:
Toby is the Founder, Editor and go-to man for TobyChristie.com. He is also the co-host of The Final Lap Weekly Podcast. Additionally, Toby is a NMPA (National Motorsports Press Association) award winning writer, and has followed NASCAR as a fan since 1993.